Artist Cynthia Miller with F&S Carpenters Curtis Wayne and Jed Brummer

Capital Programs, Carpenters Complete Artist’s ‘Vision’

F&S Capital Programs and Carpenters helped artist Cynthia Miller get art installed in Talbot Laboratory at UIUC.
Photo: Grainger College of Engineering

Talbot Laboratory, home to the Grainger College of Engineering, now hosts a 39-piece art display from a University of Illinois graduate. Artist Cynthia Miller specializes in copper enameling and is extremely appreciative of the effort it took to install, which included F&S in both planning and execution.

Miller’s work, called ‘Cosmic Vision,’ is large-scale—nearly twice as large as anything she has made—and is featured in a tall and narrow space, one drenched in natural light thanks to an adjacent wall of windows. From outside Talbot Laboratory, the colors of the art pour through onto walkways to and from the Bardeen Quad, Boneyard Creek, Wright Street, and other major campus landmarks.

Of her piece, Miller said it was “very exciting and lots of fun. I loved doing it. I would be very happy to do again and again.”

The Art and The Artist

Miller loves the process of making her art. It requires imagination and creativity but also an appreciation for gradual advancements and the process of making.

Each piece is solid copper that has been scoured to produce a fine texture, upon which pulverized glass is sifted. Time spent in a kiln melts down the glass, and as it cools colorations are revealed. Once completed, each piece has the shiny smoothness of glass while also featuring bright, effusive coloring.

All 39 pieces for ‘Vision’ were fired in a kiln 10 times.

“The process is the fun part. Seeing the image evolve is the fun part,” said Miller.

“Art in Architecture”

From outside Talbot Laboratory, the colors of the art pour through onto walkways to and from the Bardeen Quad, Boneyard Creek, Wright Street, and other major campus landmarks.
‘Cosmic Vision’ can be seen from near the corner of Wright Street and Green Street.

A State-mandated program administered by F&S Capital Programs leans into the value of public space—essentially, for most new buildings or major additions, there is space and architectural considerations set aside for art. This included an addition at Talbot Lab.

Previously, Art in Architecture (AiA) helped secure art at buildings like Wassaja Hall, Electrical & Computer Engineering Building, and Law Building, and many others. The state law went into effect in 1977 and accounts for any new buildings or additions over a cost of $5 million.

So Miller competed for the AiA commission at Talbot. A 12-person panel, consisting of F&S Capital Programs, two people from the building user group, a person from the U of I System office, and a representative from the architecture firm, reviewed the work of Miller and other competitors before awarding the Illinois grad who now lives in Arizona.

F&S Capital Programs project manager Cheryl Bicknell helped coordinate this process.

The artist and university agreed upon the type of work, including color and location, so that the larger campus community could easily view the work. Bicknell said the committee selected Miller’s work because of its vivid colors reflecting the research from the two departments housed in the facility: Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering (NPRE) and Aerospace Engineering.

“The prominence of the piece and the nature of the materials means it will be a vibrant part of the Engineering Quad for many years to come,” said Bicknell. “The art can be shared with anyone associated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – students, staff, faculty, parents, and visitors.”

Handled with Care by Carpenters

F&S Carpenters Curtis Wayne and Jed Brummer performed the installation at Talbot.

The starting point was determined by how close the tallest row of panels had to be to the ceiling. Once the top layer was established, each descending row had to be accurately placed corresponding to the one before it, ensuring equal distance between each panel.

“The carpenters were fabulous,” said Miller. “My job was to stay out of the way and not break anything. I came down for the installation to ‘supervise’ it, and they installed it magnificently.

The installation required precision to make the piece achieve the cohesive look required for a large environmental space. Because of the enameling process, the individual pieces are not the same dimensions. The uneven nature of the work meant Wayne and Brummer measured more than twice and made additional sketches to determine the exact and best way to hang the art. Adding to the complexity of the installation, the wall selected is slightly curved.

“This job was special in a few ways,” said Eric Hasselbring, carpenter sub-foreperson. “One was that it was time-sensitive in terms of the installation. Once it started, it needed to finish in one go. The artist supplying the artwork is from Arizona and was here for the installation. The art is large and is in two stairwells in a space 40-feet tall. They needed to be spaced evenly and in a specific order.”

Simply picking up and holding the work was enough to worry any caring artist, but Wayne and Brummer were more than up to it. Each piece is breakable or crackable since it is glass, but once up, the colors will not fade and the aesthetic impact should last.

“I was just so impressed with the carpenters. They knew just how to handle each piece: steady, they didn’t rush, didn’t stumble, didn’t drop anything,” said Miller. “They just knew exactly what they were doing. It was so much fun to watch them. Those two (Wayne and Brummer) were real pros at what they were doing. To be there when they were installing was a joy and privilege.”

One thought on “Capital Programs, Carpenters Complete Artist’s ‘Vision’

  1. Thank you for the exploration of this process from start to completion. It was an honor and a joy to create “Cosmic Vision” for my alma mater. There were many people collaborating to make this happen; the challenging process of installation flowed seamlessly thanks to Wayne and Brummer. Your article told the whole story beautifully! Thank you so much!

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